One of Hallmark Channel's biggest claims to fame is its annual Countdown to Christmas programming franchise, which consistently catapults the channel to be the top-rated and most-watched network on cable during Q4. In addition to creating a festive holiday celebration on air, Crown Media Family Networks invites media buyers, planners and clients along with their families to enjoy one of the season's most iconic and beloved events: the company's annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade viewing party from Columbus Circle. This intimate gathering gives attendees one of New York City's best vantage points of the parade route, while also allowing them to experience the Hallmark Channel holiday brand up close and personal. Executive Vice President, Ad Sales and Digital Media for Crown Media Ed Georger (pictured at bottom, second from right) described the value -- and joy -- of celebrating the season and success with clients.
E.B. Moss: Countdown to Christmas is basically television's biggest holiday franchise. It's December and you're halfway through the season; how's it going so far? And what comes next?
Ed Georger: Thanksgiving ratings are just in and results are stronger than ever. This year, we expanded our Thanksgiving Movie Event to include Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and between the two networks we premiered 12 new holiday movies over nine days. No other network even comes close to this level of volume of fresh, original holiday content. Driven by the success of the event, Hallmark Channel was the highest-rated network in all of cable during Thanksgiving weekend, which is arguably one of the important periods of the year for advertisers. Countdown to Christmas, in general, is once again the top destination for holiday entertainment. Not only is Hallmark Channel No. 1 for the third year in a row, but the channel is beating the next closest network by 104% among W25-54 and 79% among W18-49. At the same time, an increase in original holiday movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has boosted that network to rank as a top 10 network among W25-54. So, both franchises are in full swing.
These results are also being fueled by our new Holiday App, which lets viewers keep track of all of our new original movie premieres and is driving a huge explosion on social media. After Christmas, we're excited to be expanding our celebrations of the other seasons throughout the year by leaning into Hallmark Channel's annual programming franchises such as Winterfest, Countdown to Valentine's Day, Spring Fever, June Weddings, Summer Nights and Fall Harvest ... which then leads back into holiday! That's helped the network really become known among consumers and advertisers as a year-round destination for celebrations and seasons. There's a benefit to that which advertisers recognize: This kind of topical, timely content make for the optimal opportunity to communicate seasonal marketing messages and make a real impact on consumers in a safe, on-brand and relevant environment.
E.B. Moss: You just had your annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade viewing party. How long have you been doing this event and why does it make sense for your brand?
Ed Georger: Believe it or not, we've been hosting this event since 2001, the year Hallmark Channel was launched. Celebrating holidays, seasons, special occasions and traditions is in our brand's DNA. And since the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, now in its 91st year, is one of the country's biggest, most cherished holiday traditions, it was a perfect fit for us, so we knew we needed to establish a presence there.
Moss: What's changed since you started doing this event more than fifteen years ago?
Georger: Well, it's gotten a lot bigger for one! It's not an exaggeration to say that this is a highlight of the season for our clients and something they look forward to all year long. Since this is a family event, we've also added all kinds of fun things for kids to do, like face painting, games, a crafts table, cookie decorating and of course an appearance by Santa himself. These are the things that we all associate with the Christmas season which you also see woven as thematic elements into our movies. It's like we're creating the warm, festive feeling of a Hallmark Channel holiday movie in a party setting.
I'd say that perhaps the biggest development, though, is the introduction of an annual Countdown to Christmas float in the parade which we added in 2015. This is really exciting because not only do we have the opportunity to watch the parade from one of the best spots in the city, but our brand is actually an integral part of the event. Just this year, Diana Ross was the headlining performer on our float and she was a huge hit!
Moss: Why do you think the event is in such high demand for your clients and do you think it influences their spends with Crown Media?
Georger: This parade is something most Americans associate with the kick-off of the season. We've all gathered around to watch the parade on TV, but this event is the best possible way to experience it, quite literally, up close and in person. Another big reason it's so popular is because it's truly a family affair; clients are able to bring their whole families, which for an industry event is rare.
In terms of influencing their spends, I obviously can't put a number on it, but this is one of the best opportunities we can offer our clients for experiencing our brand in a really unique way. It goes a long way toward making an impression about who we are and what our values are as a brand. Ultimately, it's an opportunity for us to both thank our clients and reinforce in their minds our success story, especially during the holidays when Hallmark Channel is a top network on cable.
Moss: Can you tell us who attends the event?
Georger: As I mentioned earlier, this event gets bigger every year and demand for tickets was at an all-time high in 2018. We have amazing partners at the agencies and with clients directly, and we really enjoy meeting their families. This year we hosted representatives behind such brands such as BMW Mini, American Express, AT&T, Hershey, Tiffany & Company and Pfizer to name just a few.
Photos courtesy of Crown Media.
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